|3||Danilo DI LUCA|
|» Individual time
» Best climber classification
The raceWednesday 25 April 2007
|stage 1 | Charleroi > Huy - 202.5 km|
Patient Rebellin does it again
For the second time of his career after 2004, Davide Rebellin conquered the Fleche Wallonne. The Italian remained patient throughout the 202.5km of the race and made the decisive move in the final demanding climb up the Mur de Huy. The Italian gives Gerolsteiner its second win in less than a week after Schumacherâs triumph in the Amstel God Race. With a comfortable 10 metre lead on the finish line, Rebellin beats the two previous winners of the event, Alejandro Valverde (GCE) and Danilo Di Luca (LIQ) who had been the main actors of the race in the last 15 kilometres.
The film of the stage
Exactly like a year ago, the 189 riders of the Fleche Wallonne took off under a bright sunshine. Great conditions and an extremely fast pace straight from the start (47km covered during the first hour). After only four kilometres three men managed to take off: Freddy Bichot (AGR), Morris Possoni (LAM) and Paul Manning (LAN). But there efforts proved to be vain with the pack closing the gap just a few kilometres later. In the early stages of the event, Frenchman Bichot was to be the main actor, trying again to take off at kilometre 25 with three companions â again caught by the pack - before eventually jumping in the good attempt at kilometre 40 alongside Verdugo (EUS), Loosli (LAM) and Le Mevel (C.A). The gap rapidly started growing: 2â05 at km 44, 3â20 at km 47 and then up to a maximum 7â10 at km 54.
Bichot goes for climberâs points
Getting closer to the first of the three climbs up the Mur de Huy, the pack slowly started reacting and the gap dropped down to 5â50 at the top (km 65.5). Well aware that the pack would eventually catch them, Bichot focused on capturing as many climbers points as possible. He made it first at the top of the CÃ´te dâEreffe (km 84.5).
At kilometre 110, Russiaâs Ivan Rovny (TIN) broke clear from the pack in a counter-attacking position. But his effort only lasted 15 kilometres while the pack remained 2â50 adrift at km 126. The situation changed completely in the climb up the CÃ´te de Peu dâEau with Le Mevel and Loosli failing to follow Verdugo and Bichot. The Spaniard continued on his own in the downhill portion. Despite several counter-attacks including those of De Schrooder (JAC) and Mertens (PRL), Verdugo remained in the lead until the demanding climb up the CÃ´te de Bonneville where he was eventually caught by a group of 19 men including the likes of Rogers (TMO), Vila (LAM), Voeckler (BTL) and Lovkvist (FDJ).
Di Luca and Valverde attack
With under 40km to go, Vasseur (QSI) gave it a go and broke away from this group. Once caught back, it was Gilbertâs (FDJ) turn to enjoy a few kilometres on his own. The mouth-watering action and ever increasing attacks eventually stopped â for a while â with 30kms to go as the greedy pack caught up with all the leading men.
With 25 kilometres to go, Sergei Ivanov managed to take off enjoying a maximum 35â advantage over the pack. He was first to be caught in the penultimate climb up the CÃ´te de Ahin by Juan JosÃ© Cobo (SDV) and then by Kim Kirchen (TMO) and Danilo Di Luca. With these strong men in the race leadership, Alejandro Valverde decided to react taking with him his team mate Joaquin Rodriguez. Both men caught up with the dangerous escapees. With two Caisse dâEpargne riders up front, Rodriguez was sent alone in the lead. A smart move that however proved to be vain as all the front men were caught back by the main field with just over two kilometres to go.
Rebellin drops Kessler
In the final climb up the Mur de Huy, Kessler (AST) was the first to attack immediately chased and caught by Rebellin. The Italian carried on alone to capture his second Fleche Wallonne after 2004. With a 10 metre advantage Rebellin beat birthday-boy Alejandro Valverde while Danilo Di Luca had to settle with third spot.
The winner interview
Davide Rebellin (ITA - Gerolsteiner)
"Harder to win it a second time!""I was actually very worried when I saw riders like Danilo Di Luca and Alejandro Valverde break away with 15 kilometres to go. But I decided to remain calm and I knew that I could count on a very strong team. I just had to stay patient. For me, more there were attempts, more I had chances to win. The team really managed a great job to catch the escapees in the last kilometres and I was very luccky that the main field bunched together again before the Mur de Huy. I could then focus on the final climb. It is always tougher to win a race for the second time especially today with the hot weather conditions and the very fast pace straight from the start. To win the Fleche Wallonne again is a confirmation.
Valverde was my main rival today and he remains the biggest threat for LiÃ¨ge-Bastogne-LiÃ¨ge. But it’s a totally different race, it’s a lot longer. Now I just have to focus on resting.
2- Valverde (GCE)
3- Di Luca (LIQ)
4- Kessler (AST)
5- Ricco (SDV)